Do you have a playroom? Once I became a parent I began dreaming about a playroom. A place where I could throw all the toys and never have to see them in any other part of the house again. Because I'll be honest, we have too many toys.
If we had an extra bedroom, we probably would have had a playroom by now, and if we had a playroom, we probably would have even more toys. But guess what, I've decided I don't actually need a playroom after all. Instead of a playroom, we have an art space and that's even better for me and my kids.
America has a toy problem, and I blame Amazon and Target. I grew up in the 80s. There was no Amazon and no local Target. All of my toys fit neatly into one large plastic vinyl toy box. Outside we had a fenced in dirt play yard where our trucks lived and we had a garden hose at our disposal and we were happy with just that. We took a trip to the grocery store once a week with my mom where we begged her for Fruity Pebbles, not toys. We occasionally went to the drug store, where they had one whole aisle of toys, and we'd end up buying a pack of Uno cards. Times have changed. Today more and more of us are doing the majority of our shopping online. Buying stuff has become really easy, perhaps too easy.
Who doesn't have an Amazon account these days? You think you need something, and you could wait until you have time to get to the store on Saturday, or you could just order it and have it in two days without having to strap your unwieldy kids into their car seats and drive half way across town. And then there's Target. Target is a brilliant store. It's the place where moms can go to feel a little bit like their old selves for a while. Where else can you enjoy a latte while also shopping for clothes, food and household goods, all while your two darling little angels sit strapped into a shopping basket with a million distractions at their disposal. Target is a safe space for outings with kids. The problem is it is too safe, we end up spending more time there and buying more stuff than we actually need, including toys.
Kids are born creative. Give them a box and it will become a boat. Give them a sheet and it will become a sail. They don't need a lot of toys. They are the masters of making something out of nothing, I don't want to take that skill away from them by giving them everything. I now try to limit toys to learning toys, creative play toys and games (don't get me wrong, this is a work in progress, we still have WAY too may toys). Beyond toys we have a couple of different creative work spaces in our house. I wrote about these in a different blog if you would like to see how I organize our art space click here. I've decided that if we ever do have more space, we will not have a play room, we will have an art room with a small section for creative toys.
Maybe you already have the playroom, or too many toys, and you want to change things? Consider keeping the toys that help them learn and the toys that help them make believe and give the rest away. Invest in art supplies. Have a clay or playdough station. Have a painting station. Have an odds and ends station. Throw some markers and a giant pad of paper on the ground and see what they decide to do with it. Make everything as easily accessible as possible to them. They will come back to these things again and again.
Let your kids get bored and give them a space in which to get unbored. Our kids are growing up in a weird time. Someday they will have cell phones and social media and we need to equip them with tools and hobbies so that they don't just turn to screens for their next distraction. Let them develop the pathways now for creativity by encouraging it at home.
Here's a thought. Imagine what will happen the next time your kids say they are bored and you reply with, "Go make something in the art room." The possibilities are endless.